Glastonbury · Town Crier · Uncategorized

How it all started



Last week I was asked by a couple of people about how I came to be a Town Crier. It’s a question that many visitors ask every year, so here’s the full story about how I ended up “on the streets”, ringing a big bell and shouting my head off at the public.
As a supply teacher, I had been employed to teach science by Glastonbury’s secondary school, for the best part of a year, to cover a staffing gap in 2013.


 St Dunstan’s  School, Glastonbury

It was on the very last day of the school year that, for me, a very significant event took place. It was the July end-of-term assembly and prize-giving ceremony. It was a blazing-hot day and I was stood at the back of their massive sports hall, along with several dozen other perspiring and totally exhausted teachers, teaching assistants and office staff, watching the proceedings. It’s always a delight on these occasions to applaud all those students who have won awards for their efforts, both in and out of the classroom.
Whilst standing there, I recognised one of my old pupils from when I was teaching at a different school not far away but about 20 years before. He was sat next to the Headteacher. He was dressed in a very smart suit. His father, Graham Coles, Glastonbury’s much-loved Town Crier, had sadly passed away a few months earlier and his son was there at the prize giving to present the “Graham Coles Memorial Cup” for outstanding achievement in sport.


Graham Coles R.I.P.

I remember Graham with much affection; we were fellow radio amateurs and I also remember him from parents’ evenings as well, when I taught his boys.
Incidentally, by an amazing coincidence, the Town Crier before Graham was also a radio amateur (or radio “ham”)!  His name was Jim Bobbett. (His call sign is G0MSL, Graham’s was G0BKU and mine is M0BJO)


Jim Bobbett

When I got home, I remember telling my wife, June, about Graham’s sad passing and the events of the last day of term. I ruminated with her on what a “fun” job it would surely be, to be the Town Crier of Glastonbury, being able to dress up and attend all those special events throughout the year. To be honest, I’d always fancied a crack at the job. In teaching, there’s always an element of “acting”, as any teacher will tell you. I would probably have enjoyed local amateur dramatics too, were it not for the fact that I just haven’t got the memory (nor patience!) to learn endless pages of lines. But in a Town Crier role, yes, I would be able to do a little “acting”, but the real bonus is that the “lines” would be written down on a scroll and I could just read them out. Perfect! The more I thought about the whole fandango, the more enthusiastic I became about the prospect of being a Town Crier.

However, I resigned myself to the thought that probably, the Town Council had already hired a replacement for Graham. I had a glance at the Town Council’s  website and sure enough, there was the advert for their Town Crier! However, my heart sank when I read the small print. I had missed the closing date for applications by four days! My dear wife June has always encouraged me; she is a wonderful optimist – she suggested I rattle off an application anyway and see what happens. That is what I did. Without delay, I hurriedly typed out an e-mail to the council, for what it was worth!
Several agonising months went by before I had a surprise communication from the Clerk of Glastonbury Town Council, inviting me to attend for an interview at the Glastonbury Town Hall. In the invitation it was explained that it would be a fairly informal interview but that at some stage during the interview, I would be expected to perform a “cry”.

The day of the interview came and so I made my way to the Town Hall with a little “cry” written out ready, just in case one was not supplied for me. As it happened, it was a pleasant, cosy chat with the Mayor and one other Town Councillor. I thought I fielded most of the questions very well. Then towards the end, they asked me to “do a cry”. Feeling rather smug I said: “Well, I just happen to have one written down here somewhere”, reaching into the inside pocket of my blazer. “I’ll just go to the end of this room”, I explained, as I started to get out of my chair, “I don’t want to deafen you!” Before I took my first step they said: “Oh, no – we want you to do it outside – at the Market Cross perhaps?” As we walked down the stairs to go outside, the caretaker rummaged in his dusty store cupboard and emerged  with a brass bell. He cheerily thrust it into my hand with a good luck wish and a bit of a wink. I was thinking to myself, just what would people make of seeing some guy ringing a bell and shouting at the top of his head, on a sunny late-summer’s evening, in the middle of town? Would I be carried away by the “men in white coats”? Would my friends quietly shake their heads in disbelief, walk on by and choose to avoid me in the future?  I consoled myself with the thought that this IS Glastonbury and compared to the many bizarre spectacles encountered in this eccentric little West Country town, this really would seem comparatively “normal”!
In the end, the interviewing panel opted to place me on the top step, infront of the Town Hall’s left side double doors.

Glastonbury, Town Hall

Glastonbury Town Hall

They scurried across the road and sat in a bus shelter on the other side of the road, outside of Glastonbury’s celebrated Italian restaurant, “GIGI’S”.



Steeling myself, I took in a big lung-full of air and belted out the following cry:

Oyez, Oyez, Oyez!
Goode Citizens of Glastonbury.
I am straightly commanded, to let it be known to all persons here gathered, that at the hour of seven of-the-clock this evening, an informal interview was conducted, for the honourable position of Town Crier of this fine town.
Mr David Alan Greenway, Schoolmaster, will be duly scrutinised on his suitability for the post.
Give heed and take note, that the interviewing panel will be: The Mayor of Glastonbury, Councillor Sue Thurgood and Councillor Denise Michell.
We wish them “good luck” in the execution of their municipal deliberations and trust that they will choose with their customary good wisdom.
God Save The Queen!

I heard the story later on, that midway through my “cry”, a party of diners had emerged from the restaurant and enquired as to why I was shouting my head off across the road. “It’s OK……he’s just auditioning for the post of Town Crier”, the panel explained. Apparently, one of the diners retorted, “He’s brilliant; give him the job!”

To use that well-known phrase:   “……..…..and the rest is history!”

Since the previous Town Crier expressed a wish to be buried in his regalia, a new outfit had to be made for me. A gifted local costumier, Cath Jenkins, was appointed to provide the new Town Crier livery. I didn’t know so many bits of me had to be measured to produce a new livery!


Cath Jenkins, Costumier

We very soon decided on the style of livery for the new Town Crier’s coat.  Here is a photo from the front of the pattern book:

coat pattern

Cath worked tirelessly in her studio, in Glastonbury’s Red Brick Building and I had to attend regularly for fittings and discussions. The green and black doeskin fabrics were ordered, along with about 3 miles of braid and a myriad of buttons of various sizes. Apparently, the ceremonial garments of the Members of the House of Lords are also made from doeskin, so I felt in good company!


I  particularly like my buttons. They have “E II R” on every single one of them!  An emblematic link with the past, since once upon a time, Town Criers were the sole messengers of the reigning monarch.

Before Cath started cutting into the expensive doeskin, a mock-up was made from scrap fabrics – including an old tablecloth!

tablecloth coat

Checking bell-ringing freedom of movement with the tablecloth mock-up!


Cath making some waistcoat adjustments

The tricorn is quite unusual. It is lined with black chick and cock feathers as opposed to the usual single ostrich feather. Feathers are symbolic, as in the olden days, only a few people (including Town Criers) could read and write with a quill pen.

Eventually all was complete and once kitted out, I presented myself to the Town Council in full regalia, at one of their meetings in the Spring of 2014, where I performed a special cry, announcing that I was ready for Civic Duties.

My dream had finally come true.




The “Reggae Bus”

Feeling a little more energetic today, we decided to wander around the local shops in search of a few postcards and a new beach bag. Somehow or other we ended up in one of those pretentious and highly up-market shopping malls, stuffed full of pristine, air conditioned jewellery, handbag and designer clothes shops. Yes, the sort of shops over which my bank manager would have had a week of sleepless nights and palpitations if he’d known I was venturing anywhere near them! Yes, they were those shops that don’t believe in price tags: “….if-you-need-to-know-the-price,-Sir,- then-you-can’t-afford-it” kind of shops!

At one cosmetic shop we actually dared to set foot in, June bought some face powder and a mascara. What a palaver and breathtaking orgy of ‘red tape’, that little transaction proved to be. June had to sign three forms (something to do with Customs, I think I heard the salesgirl say) and was then subject to a barrage of questions – a commercial “Spanish Inquizition”, no less: “How long are you here for?”; “when will you leave?”; “Did you arrive from Gatwick?”; “Can I have your passport, please, I need to take down some particulars?” etc. etc……… I tell you, International arms dealers get less of a grilling!

The psychedelic bull, at the entrance to the Mall caused us some amusement, as we hurriedly left before full-body searches and 24 hr surveillance ensued.

Still unable to find beach bag and postcards, we decided to venture into Bridgetown, the capital of the Island. Walking to the bus stop, I found my first Methodist Church with a corrugated iron roof.

We had heard that there are three types of public transport: the white minibuses, the blue government buses and……….the yellow “Reggae” buses. The latter were an experience “not to be missed”. The buses are frequent and ridiculously cheap. One fare – 2 Barbadian dollars. That’s just under a quid! And with that fare you can travel the length of the island (about the size of the Isle of Wight).

We decided to give ourselves the full-on Barbadian experience by catching a yellow “Reggae” bus. They are so-called because they all play loud reggae music. You can usually hear the music approaching before you hear the engine. We flagged ours down outside the hotel – if you don’t put your hand out they hurtle by. Oh yes, that’s the other thing – they hurtle everywhere! The locals use them a lot. Perhaps they like living dangerously? Old ladies with their shopping, young mothers with tiny tots and distinguished elderly Caribbean gentlemen with grey hair, wrinkles, enviable loud shirts and walking sticks.

The bus took off from the bus stop like a dragster. Most bus drivers use the tried and tested procedure we all learnt for our driving tests: “Mirror, signal, manoeuvre”. Not these guys. They just pull out and goooooo! Just look out if you are an innocent overtaking driver at the time. I had to hold on with both hands because they corner on two wheels and every stop is an emergency stop! The seats are pretty small – all the more reason to hang on tight! We came home on a blue bus, through the floods after some torrential rain. So sedate after the white knuckle ride, I nearly fell asleep.

Bridgetown buzzes. June felt unsafe there. I loved the atmosphere. But there again, as June often says: “I live in my own little bubble, blissfully unaware.”


A trip to Bimshire

The Town Crier has gone on a little adventure! Yes, Glastonbury High Street has fallen silent; his bell is at rest, his regalia swapped for sun hat, sunglasses and shorts. Accompanied by my good lady, we’ve decided on a little excursion to Bimshire and have consequently booked some lodgings, at a little place by the sea there.

For the next couple of weeks, I thought I’d bore you all witless with a few stories of my travels, random observations of foreign “goings-on” and the odd photo of the unusual. So, here beginneth the first of a few travel blogs to help me pass the time and possibly give you something to chuckle about.

I’m writing this at 36,000 feet, at 560mph, over the mid Atlantic heading in the general direction of the “most ferocious hurricane in recorded history, ever to cross the Atlantic.” Luckily, Bimshire is quite a bit south of the path of this highly destructive meteorological beast but no doubt her ladyship’s gin and tonic not to mention all 279 passengers will be well shaken before we’re done, by the turbulence on its periphery, as we attempt to fly over it or around it, to get to our destination. As I write this, the plane suddenly climbs an extra 2000 feet in a very short time and we exchange nervous glances. Things are beginning to bump around!

The holiday has got off to a generally good start. Neither the M3 nor M25 were in car park mode when we planned to negotiate them, but we did manage to turn up at the WRONG hotel for an overnight stay prior to flying. Now how stupid is that, to have two hotels near Gatwick, both called by the same name, within spitting distance of each other? Google maps is so easily fooled. However, the first hotel looked rather old and dilapidated, dripping with “Gothic charm”, shall we say. The man on the Reception Desk, I swear, was Dracula’s younger brother!

No matter how many times I fly, airport security still irritates. It’s bad enough being temporarily parted from your wallet, passport, phone, watch, shoes and trouser belt but the stress of having to ensure that one’s trousers don’t succumb to gravity, thus causing an act of gross indecency, is something I could really do without at such times. Added to that, the young, overweight, burly female security attendant, shouting at people for not stacking their valuables trays, was all too much. (She clearly must have honed her people skills at the Genghis Khan Charm School for Young Ladies!) Or perhaps she was just having a bad day……..

Virgin wined and dined us well in flight but I felt so sorry for the cleaners at our destination who have just an hour to transform the litter-strewn aircraft into a clean habitable place for flying somewhere else. I was saddened to have to pick my way through the eight and a half hour’s worth of accumulated detritus, where the cabin resembled a battlefield, with numerous discarded bottles, papers, packages, magazines, and other general travel rubbish. When it comes to “fouling our own nest”, we humans must be up there with the leaders!

It was a good landing in sunny, hot Bimshire. June and I always score marks out of 10 for the smoothness of the landing. The pilot got a creditable eight and a half out of ten!

On arriving at our hotel we saw our first Caribbean sunset for this year. To start with, it was totally bland and without colour. We felt slightly disappointed. But once the sun was below the horizon, there was an eruption of colour. Not just above the sea, where the sun had just set, but also above out heads and behind us as well the Sun’s rays illuminating clouds several miles above our heads. Quite the most extraordinary sunset I’d ever seen, that changed dramatically from minute to minute.

And the tequila’s good too!


Crying on the Beach

As a Town Crier I get asked to cry in some pretty unusual places. It was exactly a year ago that my wife and I visited the Dominican Republic. I do enjoy foreign holidays and as an English Town Crier, I take every opportunity to do my bit to foster good international relations, as you can see below.


On the boat trip, we struck up a friendship with a lovely couple from the Midlands. During the course of conversation we learned that this very day was their fifth wedding anniversary! Here is a photo of the happy couple with my wife, June.


“Oh, how wonderful…… congratulations”, we exclaimed as we guzzled our way through our third “Santo Libre” (I think that’s what they called it) – a most pleasant concoction of Caribbean Rum and Sprite. Highly drinkable I might add. June also insisted that I should “do a cry” for them to mark the occasion, explaining to them that I am a Town Crier, who does a lot of this sort of thing……..

Kim and Phil thought it was a novel idea. Now how fortuitous is that – to have a Town Crier handy on your beach to announce your wedding anniversary. By this time I was well into my fourth Rum and Sprite and had completely lost any inhibitions.

So, without any regalia, no bell, scroll or tricorne, I stepped forward on a beautiful sandy beach, up to my knees in water wearing only shorts and perhaps, rather appropriately, one of my particularly LOUD shirts. My sun hat standing in for a tricorn. (I love my San Francisco Rain Forest Café sun hat!)

2017-09-02 (3)(video excerpt)

With a sharp intake of breath, I bellowed a hearty “OYEZ, OYEZ, OYEZ!” at the top of my voice, startling a good many sunbathers and swimmers, I might add!2017-09-02 (1)(video excerpt)

So there you have it……… an impromptu proclamation, in the blazing sun, on a sandy Caribbean beach, by the palm trees. It doesn’t get a lot better than this.

Incidentally, the video of the full cry is on my Facebook page……. if you haven’t fallen asleep yet. (see Photos>Albums>Videos).

It’s only the little backwards stagger at the end of the cry that shows you just how intoxicated I must have been!